Ethiopian Children and 2 Medical Issues

A quick PSA about 2 Ethiopian-related medical issues. One is physiological, and one is cultural. For adoptive parents of Ethiopian children, this information ought to come from agencies prior to placement of the children. Parents and others may want to share this information with their pediatricians, dentists, and other medical caregivers.

The first is about codeine.

When children have tonsils or adenoids removed, they are often given codeine after surgery for pain relief. Ethiopians are more likely to be “ultra-rapid metabolizers” of codeine than other ethnic groups. This means that if the codeine is given to them in the wrong dosage, there can be serious harm done.

A quote from the FDA:

“These ultra-rapid metabolizers are more likely to have higher than normal amounts of morphine in their blood after taking codeine. High levels of morphine can result in breathing difficulty, which may be fatal.

From one to seven in every 100 people are ultra-rapid metabolizers, but they are more common among some ethnic groups. Twenty-nine percent of North African and Ethiopian populations are ultra-rapid metabolizers, and about 6 percent of African American, Caucasian and Greek populations are also affected.”

Here is more information, which you may want to print out and give to your doctor and dentist.

The second is about the uvula, that bit of flesh that hangs down in the back of the throat.

I’ve known a number of Ethiopian adoptees, particularly those adopted after infancy and toddlerhood, who have no uvula. Their uvulas may have been removed: here’s further information. There may or may not be any subsequent complications; those adoptees that I know have had none, but the pediatrician was surprised. This information may be worth sharing with your pediatrician.

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